Dialogues on the Experience of War
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The National Endowment for the Humanities offers the Dialogues on the Experience of War (Dialogues) program as part of its current initiative, Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War. The program supports the study and discussion of important humanities sources about war, in the belief that these sources can help U.S. military veterans and others think more deeply about the issues raised by war and military service. Dialogues is primarily designed to reach military veterans; however, men and women in active service, military families, and interested members of the public may also participate.
The program makes awards of up to $100,000 to support
- the convening of at least two sustained discussion programs for no fewer than fifteen participants; and
- the creation of a preparatory program to recruit and train program discussion leaders (NEH Discussion Leaders).
Preparatory training and discussion programs may take place in veterans’ centers, at public libraries or cultural centers, on college and university campuses, and at other community venues. The discussion programs should comprise multiple meetings that are long enough to allow participants to engage in deep and inclusive discussion.
Potential Resources for Dialogues on the Experience of War Projects
War, military service, patriotism, pacifism, and civic duty are themes that have permeated the great works of history, literature, philosophy, and art that will form the basis of Dialogues on the Experience of War discussion programs. From the Standard of Ur to the Book of Deuteronomy, to Herodotus, Thucydides, Sun Tzu, the Mahabharata, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas, the subject of war—its causes and effects, and the experience of soldiers, sailors, civilians, and families—has animated the works of poets, philosophers, historians, artists, and theologians of the ancient and medieval world.
The same is no less true in the modern world, in which great questions about war and military service have commanded sustained attention in literary, historical, artistic, and philosophical sources. Powerful works emerged from the wars of the last three centuries. Consider, for example, the writings of Carl von Clausewitz and Henry David Thoreau; poetry by Rudyard Kipling, Wilfred Owen, Anthony Hecht, and Brian Turner; histories by Russell Weigley, Drew Gilpin Faust, John Keegan, and Laura Hillenbrand; plays by Alice Dunbar-Nelson and David Rabe, artworks by Käthe Kollwitz, Pablo Picasso, and Stanley Spencer; Civil War ballads and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony (dedicated to the city of Leningrad in 1941).
To this list may be added many powerful cinematic treatments, including La Grande Illusion (France, 1937), The Best Years of Our Lives (United States, 1946), Night and Fog (France, 1955), The Cranes Are Flying (USSR, 1957), Hell in the Pacific (United States, 1968), Das Boot (Germany, 1981), The Pianist (Poland, 2002), Turtles Can Fly (Iraq/France/Iran, 2005), and The Messenger (United States, 2009).
The works listed here are offered only as examples. None of them needs to be included on proposed syllabi.
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